Road Trip: Portland to San Francisco

Day 1: Portland to Florence

We left Portland just after lunchtime after breakfast cooked by our AirBnB hosts and running a few errands in the city. We headed East making for the coast and the scenic Highway 101. This drive runs alongside the Pacific Coast running through towns along the way. The traffic was slow moving out of Portland so we didn’t make to our estimated first stop – Coos Bay, but stayed the night in a motel in Florence. We didn’t book any accommodation on this road trip to give us the flexibility which proved it’s worth on the first night. The weather was inclement along the coast with the ocean clearly rough and rain storms passing in and out. It made for a more dramatic scene though and as we were driving and not walking this didn’t bother us too much. We actually passed through a point called Cape Foulweather – very apt! As well as running along the coast, the highway also weaved through the forest inland so we had the best of both worlds. A lush green forest and the ocean. We chose our motel on price- $50, and it did the job. There was even Ghostbusters and Ghostbusters 2 on TV to unwind to.

Portland to Florence

A view of the stormy coast, on the way from Portland to Florence.

Cape Foulweather

Enjoying the vista from Cape Foulweather

Day 2: Florence to Crescent City

We aimed to get to Eureka today but in the end stopped for the night in Crescent city, about 80 miles short. The drive today took a little longer than the previous day as we detoured inland to Eugene, where the University of Oregon is, as we had heard it was nice town to wander around. As it turns out it wasn’t that special but the drive was scenic, winding and through forests. Eugene was quiet but then it as a Sunday and a Uni town out of term. From here we drove to Cottage Grove, a town with lots of covered bridges, those quirky, typically American structures. This is the self-coined covered bridge capital of the west and we did see a few but were expecting to drive through one, not see them from a new bridge. The road back to the coast from Cottage Grove wound it’s way through more forests and alongside the Umpqua river until we got to Reedsport where we headed South along the coast again and in wild weather till we passed into California and ended up in Crescent City. Here we found another $50 motel and  enjoyed a typical diner meal of Steak & Eggs and Pork Roast in the The Apple Peddler.

Cottage Grove

One of the covered bridges in Cottage Grove.

Florence to Crescent City

The drive from Florence to Crescent City

Day 3: Florence to Santa Rosa

Today we we’re going to see the tallest living organisms ever to have lived on earth, the Redwoods. The first leg of our drive took us through the Redwood National Park in the direction of Eureka. On this drive we saw some large trees but nothing compared to what was to come. The drive to Eureka was again, very scenic taking in dense forest and the coast, this time in sunshine. We stopped briefly in Eureka for a slice of huckleberry pie and coffee before heading on Highway 101 inland. A little way inland we took the scenic detour along the ‘Avenue of the Giants’. This was no exaggeration as we saw the most enormous trees. They can live as long as 2,000 years and grow to 300 feet fall. A truly remarkable site and once again we were feeling dwarfed by the landscape around us. Along the way we went for a walk through the giant forest and saw a plaque honouring Laura and James Mahan, a local couple who in 1924 took a personal stand against the Pacific Lumbar Company and saved the forest from being logged. Once through the trees we stopped for lunch of grilled sandwiches in Garbersville, the last stop before we checked into our motel in Santa Rosa. The towns were getting a distinctly more Californian fell to them the closer we got to San Francisco. In Santa Rosa I chose a motel within walking distance to the Russian River Brewing House as we had heard from a couple in Portland that their IPA was the best in the world. I don’t feel experienced enough in the world of beers to give that title but it was very tasty. That was the Pliny the Elder double IPA, I also tried the Blind Pig IPA, still good but not as good. A very generous charcuterie plate was for dinner. Not the usual deep fried bread, chillis or chicken; the standard beer food here.

Avenue of the Giants

A couple of midgets we found on a walk through a Redwood forest

Cresecent Ciy to Santa Rosa

The drive from Cresecent Ciy to Santa Rosa, the sun came out for us this day

Day 4: Santa Rosa to San Francisco

Before we got to San Francisco we had a few wineries to visit in the Sonoma Valley. The day was perfect, blue skies and sunshine as we headed out to the Iron House winery, perhaps the most picturesque we have been too, definitely on this trip, with the outdoor tastings area overlooking the rolling hills covered with vines. We shared tastings as they charged for the privilage and ended up buying a bottle of Pinot. The next winery was called Red Car, a more modern looking place in style and situated in a town way from the vineyards. No wine purchased here as you had to spend $50 to get rid of the tasting fee, out of our backpackers budget. We went to one more, Porter Creek, a farmhouse style setup and a range of wines with a generous pourer. We bought another bottle here figuring we would enjoy a few glasses after our days trekking in the national parks to come. With the wineries done we went for lunch in a lovely little town called Graton before hitting the cost and the Bodega Bay heads. The countryside around the area is really rural with nice looking villages and towns, all very picturesque. For those that have seen ‘The Birds’ by Hitchcock, this was filmed in Bodega Bay. Bodega Heads gave us a great view of the Pacific at possibly the windiest place I have ever been, we couldn’t get out of the car as the wind was so strong. This was our last stop before San Francisco. Driving into the. It was spectacular arriving over the Golden Gate Bridge into downtown and up the crazy steep streets to where Chris lives. It was great to see Chris, it’s been around five years since the last time. After dumping our bags he took us to an awesome Mexican place in the Mission to start our time in San Francisco. We have five days here and can’t wait to get exploring!

Sonoma Valley

Iron House winery, the Sonoma Valley, California

Sonoma Valley

A view overlooking the Sonoma Valley, wine country

Total distance 1074 miles



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  1. Beaumont avenue /

    Just read about your time in portland and then down to san fra. Looking forward to seeing jessica on sunday.

  2. Kirsty and Peter /

    Loving San Fran. Here until Sunday then head to Yoseimte for a couple of days before Las Vegas

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